Found on the Fringes


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With its panorama of risque outfits, the "Telephone" music video immediately elevated Lady Gaga to icon status. However, the Lady's pantless antics haven't dazzled everyone. Joanna Newsom mockingly dubbed Gaga "Arty Spice" while M.I.A. scoffed that she sounds more like M.I.A. than M.I.A. herself. These singers may dispute Gaga's originality, but the fact that these unconventional music mavens have earned enough celebrity to care at all is largely due to the Internet.

From superstars to 8-bit chiptune makers, many thank the advent of YouTube for resurrecting the music industry. Veteran director Jonas Akerlund professes that he left retirement to direct Gaga's "Telephone" because he was confident his videos would receive surefire Internet exposure.

Before YouTube, music videos were becoming obsolete with channels like MTV opting for reality shows instead. Now, the prospect of instantaneous popularity has given Akerlund new vigor to return to the music business. With physical communication barriers torn away, big-time directors no longer have to depend on corporate suits in skyscrapers to disseminate their work throughout mainstream America. A simple "Did you see the new Lady Gaga video?" will yield a click, and voila.

When Mos Def rapped the lyrics "Old white men runnin' this rap shit/ Corporate forces runnin' this rap shit" on "The Rape Over," the track was removed for his 2004 album, The New Danger. Perhaps my accidental discovery of this song on YouTube speaks for how things have changed.

Though it's annoying when people's parents and corporate news media haphazardly throw around the term "viral" to describe anything related to the Internet, the adjective is a useful metaphor for examining the way that YouTube contributes to the lifecycle of music trends. Interesting information works like a contagion, except instead of destroying bodies of music with its infection, the YouTube virus has breathed vitality into emerging electronic music genres.

Since its inception in the early 2000s, dubstep's virus-like spread over the Internet has taken the music genre from its humble UK garage beginnings to international underground fandom. The myriad of links, related videos and responses on YouTube have accumulated into an archive of its evolution.

Practically anonymous himself, InspectorDubplate boasts the title of the UK's 38th most widely subscribed to YouTube channel for music. This may not make waves within the mainstream, but his almost daily uploads of new underground MP3s give artists like Tel Aviv's heavy dubstep deejay Borgore or Los Angeles' electronica-influenced Druley worldwide exposure.

No feud like rap's East Coast versus West Coast could erupt among an international community of artists who rely on little more than their music and a short "About Me" to represent themselves. Having few genre conventions besides a two-step beat, dubstep comes in a variety of manifestations. Producer Oddsokz unexpectedly samples Britney Spears' "3" amid grimy, distorted buzzes. Meanwhile, B. Rich favors hip hop, sampling Birdman's "Pop Bottles" for his party track "We Ball Harder."

Because of sites like YouTube, MySpace and, music sharing has become much more than Limewire piracy. Old white men may have been running shit when Mos Def penned "The Rape Over," but they're scratching their heads at how to go viral now that artists and music listeners are changing the business from the inside out.

Start using MySpace again with Nastia at [email protected]

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